Search and rescue is all about saving lives. And the capability to save a life is regularly dependent upon how quickly a person can be found and accessed (National Association for Search & Rescue, 2011). Search-and-rescue dogs are smart, nimble and compliant, but their high drive to want to play is what makes them look for a missing person in all kinds of different places and situations. At its most fundamental, the job of a Search and Rescue (SAR) dog has two components. The first is to find the source of a human scent and the second is to let the handler know where it is (Layton, 2011).
The dogs trained for urban search and rescue, utilize their noses to find living victims who are trapped when disastrous events take place like a building collapsing due to an earthquake, hurricane or explosion. Other SAR dogs are trained in wilderness, avalanche and water searches. Each type of SAR requires specific training. Disaster dogs must be capable to focus on their search while finding their way around large piles of shifting rubble and contending with commotion that may include other search dogs and people, and the existence of cadavers (Mehus-Roe, 2011).
Experts estimate that a single SAR dog can complete the work of twenty to thirty human searchers. It's not just about smell, either, dogs have superior hearing and night vision which also come into play. Time is constantly an issue in search and rescue. In an avalanche condition, for example, roughly ninety percent of victims are alive fifteen minutes after being buried; only thirty percent are alive after thirty five minutes. While most avalanche victims don't survive, their chances increase exponentially when dogs are in on the search. Even in cases where victims are thought to be dead, dogs are invaluable assets since they can locate the bodies so family members can have closure and give their loved one a proper burial (Layton, 2011).
SAR dogs can do a lot of astounding things, including rappel down mountainsides with their handler, find a human being within a five hundred meter radius, locate a dead body under water, climb ladders and walk across an unsteady beam in a collapsed building, but it's all toward the single end of finding human scent. This may be in the form of a living person, a dead body, a human tooth or a piece of clothing. SAR dogs find missing persons, search disaster areas for survivors and bodies and find evidence at crime scenes, all by concentrating on the smell of a human being (Layton, 2011).
While search and rescue dogs are able, in theory, of being trained as both air scent and trailing dogs, most dog handlers train their dogs to execute only one of these disciplines. Thus, the most valuable dog team, in terms of attaining a high likelihood of detection, is one with a dog that can go back and forth between air scenting and trailing as conditions warrant. All humans, alive or dead, continually emit minute particles bearing human scent. Millions of these are airborne and are carried by the wind for substantial distances (Dogs in Search & Rescue, n.d.).
The air scent dog is the kind most normally encountered. This dog finds lost people by picking up traces of human scent that are traveling in the air, and looks for the conduit of scent where it is most intense. This dog will not usually distinguish scents, so there is the possibility of a false alarm if other people are close by. Air scent dogs work best in locations such as large parks or private lands that are closed at the time, since the dog will home in on any human scent. The success of an air scent dog will be affected by a number of things, including wind conditions, air temperature, time of day, terrain, and presence or absence of contamination. The best conditions for air scent dogs to work are early mornings or late afternoons on cool, cloudy days when there is a light wind (Dogs in Search & Rescue, n.d.).
The trailing dog is often referred to as a tracking dog, even though tracking and trailing are not the same to the traditionalist. The trailing dog is directed to find a precise person by following minute particles of human tissue or skin cells cast…